MKs censure Ministry of Interior's attack on religious-Zionist community

While attacking the religious-Zionist community, the minister took particular aim at the Tzohar rabbinical association which has gained great popularity with traditional and secular Israelis

Aryeh Deri (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Aryeh Deri
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Several religious-Zionist MKs have reacted sharply to disparaging comments made by Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri about the religious-Zionist sector and its rabbis.
Speaking on Monday at a conference of the B’Noam rabbinical association, Deri said that religious-Zionist communities, especially in the Central District of Israel, were “borderline Reform [Jews],” intending his words as an insult against the commitment of such communities and rabbis to Orthodox Jewish law.
Likud MK Yehudah Glick termed Deri’s “name-calling” as “disrespectful,” and insisted that the religious-Zionist sector and its rabbis were very committed to Jewish law.
“Haredim [ultra-Orthodox] are not very inclusive, and anyone who doesn’t keep Jewish law their way is not acceptable,” Glick told The Jerusalem Post. “I have a lot of respect for haredi rabbis, and I expect them to have respect for religious-Zionist rabbis too.”
Glick said that some religious- Zionist rabbis were creating “new melodies in Jewish law,” in reference to the greater role afforded to women in the synagogue and community afforded by some religious- Zionist congregations, arguing that such approaches “strengthen, not weaken Jewish law.”
“I expect haredim to be tolerant and to understand that what others are doing comes from desire to respect and preserve Jewish law,” said the MK.
Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie said that Deri’s comments reflected “a fear of the tremendous success of the religious-Zionist endeavor,” describing the sector as “a huge community which integrates Torah and work, identity and belonging through contribution and involvement.”
While attacking the religious- Zionist community, Deri took particular aim at the Tzohar rabbinical association which has gained great popularity with traditional and secular Israelis with its wedding program and other services.
Deri noted that Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav had lobbied strongly against a recent bill propose by Deri and United Torah Judaism to grant the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over conversion in Israel.
Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria labeled Deri’s comments as “wretched,” and said that “Tzohar rabbis work tirelessly for the good of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, out of a sense of responsibility for what happens in Israel religiously and Jewishly. I can only hope that more rabbis like those of Tzohar work toward uniting the people and not dividing it.”
Writing in the Post on Wednesday, Stav himself was highly critical of Deri’s comments, saying that the minister’s was creating a wedge within the Jewish people and inhibits Jewish unity.
“While I personally have a differing outlook on Jewish observance and on many aspects of tradition from those held by proponents of the Reform Movement, I continue to contend that we must remain one people with one heart,” said Stav.
“For a minister of the Jewish state to act in such a careless fashion questions his very legitimacy to represent that state.
I would therefore respectfully call upon him to avoid fostering greater division within a society that is already sadly divided,” he continued.
And the rabbi affirmed his pride and commitment to the principles of religious Zionism.
“I would certainly never shy away from the fact that we are an organization of religious rabbis with an unwavering passion for Medinat Yisrael [the State of Israel]. To be included in such a group is a source of great pride and certainly not something for which one should ever apologize.”